Laden with new personnel, MU offense to be tested in spring game

04/19/2014 7:36 AM

04/19/2014 7:36 AM

Missouri’s first-string offense will start the Black and Gold Game trailing 14-0 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

It should provide a good preseason test for offensive coordinator Josh Henson’s bunch.

After all, the Tigers are breaking in a new starting quarterback, new receivers at all four spots, a new starting tight end, four offensive linemen at new positions and no longer have last season’s leading rusher, Henry Josey.

Of course, it’s also a good test for Henson, who ought to feel more settled in his second season as Missouri’s offensive coordinator.

“I remember the first year I was calling plays at Washington, there’s just a confidence level that you get through it,” Pinkel said. “But I think (Henson’s) doing a really good job and the whole offense staff is working together.”

Last season, during Henson’s first campaign as a play-caller, the Tigers ranked 13th in the nation in scoring at 39.1 points per game and 16th in the nation in total offense, averaging more than 490 yards per game.

Missouri’s punishing ground game also ranked 16th nationally (237.9) and the passing offense checked in 41st (252.9), but the Tigers aren’t satisfied.

“Now, the challenge is to produce at a real high level this year,” Pinkel said. “We’ve had some receiver changes and some things like that. There’s a great opportunity, but there’s the challenge.”

Obviously, Missouri won’t make wholesale changes to its spread attack, but Pinkel said it’s important to continue to adapt and adjust.

“I don’t think you change, but you try to stay on the cutting edge,” Pinkel said. “You never want to sit back and say, ‘Well, we’ve got the offense.’ We don’t do that at all. Not many people do anymore. It’s just too complex and the defenses are too good.”

The Tigers are likely to keep things vanilla for the spring showcase, but fans ought to get a good sense of how the staff will try to play to Maty Mauk’s strengths as he prepares to take the offense’s reins on a full-time basis.

“You have to have a base of what you’re about, and obviously your quarterback dictates a lot of that too,” Pinkel said. “But we’ve got a lot of things in place. What’s important for us is just to stay healthy.”

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